More than 70 witnesses including police and military personnel reported sightings in Devon, Cornwall, South Wales and Shropshire in the early hours of Wednesday March 31, 1993, with many describing a large, low-flying object which made a low humming sound.
In a briefing note to the Assistant Chief of the Air Staff (ACAS), Sir Anthony Bagnall, the head of the Ministry of Defence’s UFO desk wrote that there was evidence of an unidentified craft evading UK defences.
He said he would not normally concern Sir Anthony with UFO sightings but continued: “You may wish to be aware of a recent particularly unusual incidence of UFO sightings over Britain, involving descriptions that match some of the reported characterisations of the so-called ‘Aurora’.”
The Aurora was the name given to an unmanned US reconnaissance aircraft supposedly developed in secret “black” programmes in the 1980s and alleged to be capable of hypersonic flight.
The plane was the subject of much speculation at the time and the British Government was forced to deny allowing experimental flights over the UK.
In his message, dated April 22, the head of the UFO desk wrote: “Some of the reports state that the object was moving at a very high speed, while some say that it was hovering or moving very slowly.
“Many of the reports refer to the object being very large, flying low and making a humming sound.
“My staff have spoken to a number of the military and police witnesses, many of whom commented that the object was unlike anything they had ever seen before.”
The note continued: “In summary, there would seem to be some evidence on this occasion that an unidentified object (or objects) of unknown origin was operating over the UK.
“If there has been some activity of US origins which is known to a limited circle in MoD and is not being acknowledged it is difficult to investigate further.”
A response from Sir Anthony came back stating: “In spite of the quantity of the many witnesses who reported the unusual sightings on March 31, I can add nothing to the debate.”
The head of the UFO desk was later urged to drop the subject.
He wrote a further briefing note on May 7 saying that he had been contacted by the British UFO Research Association (Bufora) who told him the sightings coincided with the re-entry of a Russian rocket into the Earth’s atmosphere.
He said although the re-entry might explain some of the high altitude sightings it failed to explain lower level sightings or the low hum.
He added a handwritten note to the top of the page in which he said: “As you will see, we may have an explanation for some – but certainly not all – of the recent UFO sightings.”
The letter was returned with another handwritten note scrawled at the top which stated: “Thank you. I suggest you now drop this subject.”
The month before the incident the head of the UFO desk wrote to the US ambassador in London about mounting speculation over the Aurora project.
He wrote: “Continuing questions of this nature cause us some concern and our Secretary of State has been advised that I would be contacting the United States authorities in order to restate the MoD position and to seek confirmation that if any such unusual aircraft activity were to be envisaged by the United States Government which would in any way affect the United Kingdom, the United States Government would approach the Ministry of Defence to seek prior agreement.”
The sightings on March 31 included several from RAF Cosford near Wolverhampton where police reported seeing two bright lights “flying at great velocity” above the airfield.
There was no engine noise and the lights made a slight red glow from the rear as they disappeared over the horizon.
According to a Met officer at RAF Shawbury the lights were travelling “erratically at hundreds of miles per hour unlike any aircraft” and “appeared to be searching for something”.
The officer, who also heard a low humming noise, said he had never seen anything like it before.